The master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock has no shortage of well known films for venues to select. From Psycho to Vertigo to Rear Window to The Birds, the director has a stacked back catalogue sure to pull in the punters. It’s to Stockport Plaza’s credit, then, that they have decided to eschew the much-seen masterpieces and bring us a pair of early career crackers for their June Hitchcock double-bill.
Working for the first time in the genre that would define him, Hitchcock’s The Lodger is a 1927 silent thriller about suspicion, sex and murder in the London smog. Inspired by Jack the Ripper and drawn from Marie Belloc Lowndes’ popular novel by writer Eliot Stannard, the film stars Ivor Novello as a mysterious lodger who may or may not be carrying out the series of grisly murders occurring across the capital. Hitchcock had not long returned from a spell at Berlin’s Babelsberg studios where he had observed the great F.W. Murnau (Sunrise, Nosferatu) at work and The Lodger has been praised for capturing something of the German Expressionist cinema in its use of shadows and darkness.
The Plaza follow The Lodger with 1929’s Blackmail. Also set in London, Blackmail started production as a silent film, before technological advancements and the success of talking pictures in America intervened. The film’s producer, John Maxwell, gave Hitchcock the go ahead to shift to a sound production, making Blackmail notable as one of the very first — and best received — British talkies. Based on a play by Charles Bennett, the film tells the story of Alice White (Anny Ondra), a woman who is blackmailed after killing a man who attempts to sexually assault her. As with The Lodger, film fans will notice the dark themes and preoccupations that would recur throughout Hitchcock’s lengthy career.